“One thing is certain nevertheless, as history consistently and manifestly demonstrates, the western world has always been part of the problems. No matter how pleasantly disguised they are, no matter how, at times, misleadingly positive their intentions may seem, the western imperial powers has never been part of the solution for our problems.”
By Solomon Mengisteab
Ever since the Europeans set their feet on African soil the continent has been a land of misery, pandemonium, desolation, exploitation, discrimination and injustice. Beginning from the early days of slavery up to this very moment, Africa has been the ever replenishing source of the unquenchable needs wants and luxuries of the west. The precious resources ransacked from the continent have been the means of the accumulation of abundant wealth and the most important apparatus of the prosperity of the western world.
On the other hand Africa has also been the dumping site for their trash both material and ideological. On the contrary, for Africans their encounter with the Europeans has been an era of affliction. Africans has been condemned to unremitting starvation, poverty and death while their wealth was being shipped continuously. Till this very moment, the west has been looting everything they could put their hands on from the continent. The loot that started with the shipment of thousands of slaves is later followed by the seemingly endless shipment of immeasurable natural resources and lately by seducing the precious minds of its children through brain drain. Furthermore, the people of Africa have suffered from inhumane humiliations, and the irreversible social and political desolation. The people of this continent have been persecuted through all sorts of prejudice. Their culture has been called back ward and was disregarded, their religion was regarded as pagan and therefor condemned and their philosophy was ridiculed. Their race has been labeled “not evolved” based on their color and looks; and their identity as a human being inferior. For hundreds of years the continent and its people have been exploited, slaughtered, enslaved and inferior. For centuries Africans have been victims of the actions of the West.
The reference to these abominable atrocities of the west towards the people of Africa is not a blame game. However, since we are living in the aftermath of the declared slavery and colonization the contemporary de facto indirect colonization the reference to this history is the most important part of any practical remedy for Africa. This history is the reason why the world is where it is now. This history is precisely the reason for the miserable poverty, hunger, social, economic and political unrest of Africa. Should anyone wonder why Africa with all its resources that could be enough for the whole wide world, is the roughest place in the world to live in, this history is their answer. Furthermore, should anyone ponder for any solution and salivation for the “Godforsaken continent” first they have to learn how the continent has come to be what it is now.
Unless we choose to believe that things has been already decided by fate and we are who we are now and things are as they are now by destiny as some self-proclaimed saints preach, the deliberate understanding of this history is vital to visualize the future. For, the circumstances we have to put up with today are nothing but the effects of the wounds inflicted by colonial and imperial belligerence. This history is not just the past it is also the present and the future of the continent as well. As the prominent Tanzanian low and development issues expert Issa G. Shivji put it “colonial and imperial history are at the heart of the present African position. History is not about assigning and sharing blame. Nor it is about narrating the past which must be forgotten and forgiven or simply remembered once a year on remembrance of heroes or Independence Day. History is about the present. We must understand the present as history, so as to change it for the better; perforce, in the African context where the imperial project is not only historical but the lived present.”
The end of world war second and the phenomenal new world order made it impossible for the Europeans to maintain their direct social, economic and political control over Africa through colonization. In 1960s most African countries got their independence from their colonial masters and became sovereign states, at least for a while, at least officially. However, soon after, the west began winding their web of domination that could guarantee the continuation of their exploitation and the flow of natural resources from the continent. The most important tools of their domination ever since are aids and loans. Through the promises of these aids and loans African states have been compelled to adopt economic policies which are drafted and imposed by their benefactors. The interference that has started with the demand of some economic policy adjustments as prerequisites for the aids and loans, in time mutated into the total control of the social, economic and political order of most African states by their western patrons. Before they know it, a great many African governments became the puppets or their western sponsors and African states, new colonies.
True, today Africa has a lot of problems. Listing the problems of the continent and suggesting policies is beyond the scope of this short article. One thing is certain nevertheless, as history consistently and manifestly demonstrates, the western world has always been part of the problems. No matter how pleasantly disguised they are, no matter how, at times, misleadingly positive their intentions may seem, the western imperial powers has never been part of the solution for our problems. Today, the neocolonialists over and over preach and sadly even some Africans echo that the past is just a past and there is no use probing into it; and that it is better left forgotten. They suggest that it is better to focus on the future; a future where the west are supposed to lead Africa the way out of poverty. However, as it is said there is nothing new in this world, history repeats itself. Unless we take a solid stand and change its course it looks like the history of domination, exploitation and marginalization is going to go on the same circle. Which is precisely why, African ought to learn from the past, say enough is enough and for better or worse take its own future into its own hands.